Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Chalice and hygiene

Letter of the week: from The Tablet

I have been following the correspondence about receiving from the chalice. I qualified as a dentist in 1959 just as reusable needlespassed into history but boiling water steriliserswere the norm.

Over the years, the worries concerning cross-infection became more dominant and the use of autoclaves became essential. Soon after, the Church permitted Reception of Communion under Both Kinds.

I well remember discussing with a priest that I felt this was odd because HIV/Aids was becoming evident and the method of its spread was not then known. He actually agreed but we left it there.

We now know that HIV/Aids is not spread orally but herpes and hepatitis can be and nowadays we have the arrival of ebola which is transmitted in body fluids.

I have been asked on many occasions why I do not take the chalice and my standard reply is that I have spent thousands of pounds preventing, as far as I can, cross-infection and wiping the chalice between communicants cannot be construed as such a practice. Intinction must be a better solution. Perhaps we can look forward to it becoming standard practice in the near future.

Paddy Chronnell, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

The problem for liberals is that when they talk about 'intinction', as other contributors to this correspondence have made explicit, they mean 'self intinction', a grossly disrespectful practice in which the communicant wanders from one Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC) to another, holding the Blessed Sacrament in his fingers, before dipping it into the Precious Blood as it were a bowl of taramasalata: a practice with absolutely no precedent in the historic practice of the Church. Proper intinction, as practiced in the Eastern Rites, obviously involves reception on the tongue, so they don't regard it as a possibility worth considering.

Isn't this always the way? One abuse is regarded as so non-negotiable that it is seen as sufficient justification for another. In fact, in this case we have a whole nest of abuses.

The abuse (condemned repeatedly by the Church: 1) of reception under both kinds in large congregations, justifies the abuse (repeatedly condemned: 2) of the routine use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and the further abuse of allowing these EMHCs to cleanse the Sacred Vessels (also repeatedly condemned: 3). The abuse of Communion in the hand (permitted under conditions which are rarely, if ever, met: 4), justifies the abuse (a very serious matter indeed: 5) of allowing the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament, and is regarded as so important to the spiritual lives of the Faithful that it, in the context of reception under both kinds, justifies the abuse (repeatedly condemned: 6) of self-intinction.

The only thing not yet condemned by the Holy See, which has been very slow to catch up with this, is endangering public health by the distribution of the Chalice. But since distribution to large congregations is already condemned, perhaps it should be taken as read.

Those suffering from insomnia can check the references for themselves.
1.  Sacramentali Communione (1970);  Inaestimabile donum (1980) 12; Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) 16, 102.
2. Instruction on certain questions (1997) 2; Redemptionis Sacramentum 88
3. Redemptionis Sacramentum 119
4. Memoriale Domini (1968)
5. Redemptionis Sacramentum 92, 130, 131, 133
6. Redemptionis Sacramentum 103-104

The Precious Blood: received only by the priest in the
Traditional Mass.
Most of these passages have parallels in successive editions of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

When will the madness end? The reality is that the novelties of the liturgical reform created a unstable liturgical situation. Some innovations turned out to be impractical, others demanded further innovations to make them work. The general collapse of liturgical discipline, particularly during the period in which it was constantly repeated 'canon law is being revised, so don't worry about it' (up to the publication of the revision in 1983), allowed progressive zealots to present their hobby-horses as so well established that they could not be reversed, however lamentable they might be.

The extremely limited and tentative proposal of Communion under both kinds made in the Second Vatican Council has turned, in practice, into a major problem. 

There is more about the tradition of receiving under only one kind in the Extraordinary Form in the FIUV Position Paper here.

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  1. Dear Joseph. I don't take the Chalice when I go the the Ordinary Form Mass for a variety of reasons however one of them is certainly that it looks incredibly unhygenic. However in the Catholic Churches in Cyprus the Priests practice intinction in a very sensible way. The Chalice has a sort of tray below it where the hosts are. As each person approaches the Priest takes a host, dips it in the consecrated wine and puts it on the tongue of the communicant. That form of receiving in both forms I do not object to and why it is more widespread I do not know. It is respectful, and hygenic at the same time.

    1. This sounds like what is actually permitted in the Ordinary Form by the General Instruction.

      The Eastern Rites of course use leavened bread. They practice intinction with a spoon: they dip the Host into the Precious Blood, and put it into the communicant's open mouth with the spoon, which the minister tips sideways and taps on the lower teeth (experts can correct me if I've not got this quite right).

    2. The practice referred to by Mr Addison is also what I am used to from our tiny little Catholic chapel in a Norwegian mountain village, where a retired Dominican says Mass for about 20 converts and immigrants on (most) Sundays. When our priest explained this practice shortly after I moved here he made it perfectly clear that reception under two kinds was only by intinction, and then only on the tongue – under no circumstances would any recipient be allowed to dip the host into the chalice. I appreciated his explanation, for the same reasons that constitute Dr. Shaw's argument here.

  2. Sharing the chalice in a congregation is unhygienic, however you define that term. It would not be allowed in any other social/community activity I can think of.

    Some diseases can be spread through body fluids some perhaps not. We do not know the full extent. Internal mouth cuts, e.g. accidental gum bite, bleeding teeth, and so on, all frequent and normal, must increase that risk. As has been said elsewhere, with modern trace detection methods detectable amounts of viruses, bacteria, fungi and DNA from many if not all of the partakers could be found in a sample of (unconsecrated , I trust, for the purpose of experiment) wine afterwards. Whether of infective quantities, well that’s another matter?

    The Church in its wisdom phased out this practise quite early on, and rightly so. Our forebears, particularly medieval monasteries understood much more of this than we give them credit for.

    Above all it is unnecessary. The Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ is received fully under either form.

    Intinction I am not sure about. I have only witnessed it once, in Brussels, by a group of rather doddery, shaky, elderly Franciscans. I certainly would not have allowed them to pour out wine at dinner, particularly if it was a good wine.

  3. "Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He handed it to them saying, 'Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins"

    If Jesus gave the cup to His disciples to drink from then who are we to reject this on the grounds of mere hygiene?

    1. The quick answer is that the Apostles at the Last Supper were priests. What was appropriate for them is not necessarily appropriate for the laity.

    2. Sylvester,

      There were only twelve of them, not 100 or 500 or whatever, and they were all due for the chop in the near future, and not expecting to live into their 80s.

      But then perhaps you believe that miraculous protection applies to all who receive the cup at a Catholic Mass. You may well be right. After all, who am I to judge as a mere (retired), scientist?

  4. Follow the link to the Position Paper for St Thomas Aquinas in the subject. Should (even) the priest take the chalice if is has been poisoned? No. We do not presume on God's mercy like that. The same attitude is taken by traditional and modern rules for dealing with a poisoned Chalice.

    1. Have done so. It argues the case very well and very scientifically. .